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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A new Web site for bookseller labels

Gabe Konrad, of Bay Leaf Books in Sand Lake, Michigan, has informed me of a new Web site he's launched devoted to bookseller labels. He writes, "I wanted a place where I could post interesting label news and keep a current list of links." Have a look at www.booksellerlabels.com and see if you agree with me that he's off to a fine start. I'll certainly be checking in regularly to see what's new. He has some great examples and helpful information on this diminutive paper collectible.

From time to time, I feature a few bookseller labels on this blog--those tiny, stamp-sized stickers that advertise a bookseller's business. You usually find them in older books affixed to a lower corner of either the front or rear endpaper. Some examples from my small collection are shown below.


Here's a few other collections that I've referenced before, which you'll also find on Konrad's site: Seven Roads Gallery of Book Trade Labels and the massive collection of Austrian collector, Reinhard Öhlberger, who has what is likely the largest collection of these labels--more than 24,000. Sarah Faragher's collection is also noteworthy, and I've corresponded with a Dutch collector, whose collection is extremely impressive.

But check out www.booksellerlabels.com for much more on this interesting collectible from booksellers both long gone and still with us.

Posts of Christmas Past

This blog has only been around a few years, so there's not many posts here related to Christmas. Below are three that seemed appropriate for past Christmases and for reposting today on Christmas Day. To all who follow, subscribe, or otherwise stumble across this blog and also celebrate Christmas...

Merry Christmas!




Christmas books from Amarillo, Texas











The Christmas Cove Library









Dutton's Books for Children:
A Christmas handbill circa 1900

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

African bookseller on the Niger River

Here's an interesting picture of an African bookseller who is in danger of losing his business. The economy has nothing to do with it. Progress is about to do him in.


The year is 1961 and the reverse side of this Associated Press wire photo (below) indicates that this bookseller keeps shop on a ferry that transports passengers across the Niger River (country not named). In the near future, within the next five years, a bridge will be built across the river in the location where this ferry boat runs. Modern times and technology, circa 1965, will eliminate the need for water transport of people. No ferry, no book shop for this enterprising young man.


His books appear to be used and antiquarian in nature, with perhaps a few newer titles in the mix. The titles that are legible are in English (and the newer looking books). A dictionary, a book about manners, and one about the dangers of drinking and smoking. With the much older looking books on the table, the stock certainly appears eclectic in subject matter.


So what happened to the bookseller when that bridge was inevitably built some 45 years ago? Another ferry down river? A terrestrial setting? Whatever the surface, I think this guy probably landed on his feet.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Haunted Holmes Book Company in Oakland

Does this look like a haunted building?

The Holmes Book Company was located here at 274 Fourteenth Street in 1931 according to the postmark date on the postal cover below.

And according to some, a ghost roamed the stacks mischievously throwing books and making some of the patrons feel uneasy. An article on haunted Oakland touches on this phenomenon. You can search the Internet, using the keywordsHolmes Book Company ghost, and find the same or similar references to the spooky goings on in the old book shop building.


Holmes was Harold C. Holmes, who lived from 1877-1965. A brief biography of Holmes is found at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where his papers are archived. He was born in Toronto, Canada, but his family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was about five years of age. There, his father started the Holmes Book Company, which had several antiquarian book shops in San Francisco and Oakland and offered the opportunity for Harold Holmes to enter the business. As a teenager, the younger Holmes worked with his father and eventually succeeded him in the family business, which he operated until he died.

Quoting directly from the bio in his archives, Holmes is described further:
An authority on California literary history, in his middle years Holmes was also active in Oakland civic affairs, serving as president of the Oakland Rotary Club (1946-47), a member of the Alameda County Probation Committee (1948), and, a trustee of the California College of Arts & Crafts. Holmes was working on his memoirs at the time of his death.
Those memoirs were published posthumously in a volume titled: Some Random Reminiscences of an Antiquarian Bookseller.

Holmes' descendants have attempted to reincarnate the book shop online, with some difficulty, it would appear: Holmes Book Company. The preceding link does offer some additional history on the company and features a photo of the building (built 1923-24) depicted on the envelope above. From that page, there is a History link that expounds a bit more, but many of the other links are broken or missing content. It has the makings of a fine online store with lots of history and interesting books to offer. I hope it finds its way, but I have to wonder if maybe that ghost has followed the book shop online and is creating mischief in cyberspace with the Internet version of the venerable old book shop...

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